He is not sure whether he should be enrolling for a Ph.D. at such a young age. At 30 he has managed to do quite a lot for himself. The struggles have been there yes, but fate has always seemed to find favor with him. A somewhat kind of a soft spot. Acceptance that he has never understood. Having been orphaned at a young age, his expectations were somewhat gloomy when his mother passed on with cancer a few days to his seventeenth birthday. He wasn’t informed of it because he was just about to sit for his KCSE exams. Unaware of what was happening back at home, he woke up on early mornings with the birds, studying the smartest way he knew how hoping not to disappoint his mum. He understood the worlds she had pulled to take him through one of the best schools in the country and this conviction made him want to give her the best of himself.
So, he studied and excelled.
That didn’t mean much when on the last day of his exams, a friend of his, who happened to be his neighbor at home pulled him to the side and whispered to him that something was terribly wrong at home. He didn’t say what it was but Mac knew just what was happening based on the tight notch that formed in his throat and his abdomen. Instinct told him that she was gone. The last time he had laid his eyes on her, she had been lying on a well-furnished room at Agha Khan’s private wing and she didn’t look good. She had battled with cancer for a long time and it seemed to be taking a grip on her strength and spirit.
“Focus on your studies, don’t worry too much about me. I will be fine.” She had told him.
The reason he believed those words have forever been lost to him but maybe it’s because he wanted so much for them to be true that he could have believed anything. She had been his rock and he knew his life would take an unprecedented turn the moment that first batch of soil hit her mahogany coffin. She had lived a good life and it was time for her to rest. She had been buried next to his dad and his dad before him. Before the burial, his dad’s resting place had been refurbished and fresh flowers planted to replace the well-manicured and maintained ones that had overgrown the place over the past five years.
He cried. Tears that stung him more painfully than any pain he had ever felt. His tears almost made him partially blind. The funeral had gone by in a daze.
He was an only child and everything the family owned had been left in his name. Nicki, a girl who had lived with them for all her life, one who had acted as his big sister for as long as he could remember would adjudicate over the estate until he turned 18. That was 12 years ago. Now he was 30 years of age, a practicing Architect and this Ph.D. class would be one of the academic decisions he had to make on his own since every other decision related to academia had been in consultation with his mother and Nicki. Having moved to the UK to raise her daughter with her Jamaican boyfriend, Nicki was nowhere to be consulted.
He appreciated the challenge. He had done a degree in Architecture to honor his dad and his choice of a Masters in the same field was to honor every soul his mother had touched when alive. Both his parents had been Architects. They had met in college. The cliché wasn’t lost on him. The past twelve years had been the most challenging and fulfilling at the same time. He had, of course, struggled to come to terms with the passing of his mum but, one thing she had taught him was that time waited for no one. He had to make the most of the moments he was given and touch a soul or two while at it.
As he waits for the elevator on the campus building, his phone vibrates. It’s his friend Lee texting to remind him of their mate’s wedding coming Saturday. He hasn’t forgotten but Lee has a problem with his timing. He seems to forget the pledges he makes and he has to be reminded every now and then. He sends the Organizing chair the pledged amount just as the elevator doors swing open to send him to the 14th floor of the ICEA building on Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. He forwards the message to Lee with a middle finger accompanying it. Lee sends the finger back. That’s how they communicate, with an effed up sense of humor.
The elevator doors are about to close when a feminine voice from outside shouts for him to hold the elevator for her. Being the only one in the elevator pushes him to place his shoe between the doors as he waits for her to rush in. She is in her mid-thirties. He can tell by her hair and handbag. Handbags come in ages. It isn’t too big. It matches her marron heels and the hair doesn’t look cheap. He can tell she isn’t an undergraduate student. Those ones are broke to the bones. They wouldn’t afford the nails, let alone the shoes or the handbag.
She moves her lips in a thank you gesture, moves to the far end of the elevator and leans back against the glass wall. Changing her mind, she shifts her body weight to the side, eyes him from head to toe then moves her eyes to I&M that looks glorious in its deep blue attire that glows in the September sun. Its glass walls radiate every ray of the shine and that makes her face glow even lighter. She reminds him of a lady who called him chocolate. They exude the same aura of simple complexity. Class and drive. They are beasts in ambition, achievement, and confidence.
He sees all this from the corner of his eyes. In as much as he seems to be caught up in his phone, he can feel every movement she makes. From her eyes to the shifting weight from one leg to the other. She seems edgy but buoyant in equal measure. The elevator stops at the 12th floor and she alights without even a second look at him. At the admin office, he inquires what PhDs are on offer and he settles on one in Development Economics. It’s not settling per se, but more of confirming its availability and choosing it for a second time. He had known all along that he wanted to understand a bit of economics in a development context. He hated economists but there was something inside of him that had always pushed him to want to be part of them. A Ph.D. in Development Economics had a twist in it. One that he liked.
He heads back to the elevator and finds his way to the underground parking. Before driving out of the basement parking, he changes into a light brown blazer, brown boots with a blue colored sole, a white shirt accentuated with black buttons and dark brown sunglasses. He then emails his personal assistant, Karen, instructing her of the documents she needs to send to the Econ Department and heads to Kiza. It’s a Friday and being a Friday means that happy hour has just started.
Taking his other phone from the glove compartment, he texts Kevin and asks him to meet him at Kiza. Kevin is a longtime friend of his. Having grown up together in the same neighborhood meant that he was there when Mac’s parents died and his parents provided a stable source of direction during the times he struggled with why the world had been so cruel to him. Were it not for Kev’s parents and Nicki, Mac would have not found his way out of the death quagmire cards life had dealt him.
As he joins Kenyatta Avenue, he almost drives over her. The lady from the elevator. Upon seeing him, she walks to the driver’s side and requests him to roll down his window. She doesn’t look irritated. At least to him, she doesn’t. He does as requested.
“Where are you headed?” She asks.
“Where do you want to go?” He responds in a voice that’s borderline cocky and confident. He knows that there is a possibility he doesn’t stand a chance with her but that fact doesn’t bother him at all. It takes a back seat when his ego gets summoned.
“Wherever you are going.” She responds as she walks to the co driver’s side, opens the door, with his help, sits and fastens the seat belt.
Nadia has just delivered their first child. They name her Mimi after Mac’s mum. That elevator ride changed everything for them. He is happier than he has ever been and his mum is back to his life in the form of a bundle of joy he will forever call his own. Nadia is an angel in a human form.